LIMA, 22 Sept. (IPS) – “When the pandemic came, I stopped studying, just when it was my last year of school … My parents couldn’t afford to pay for the internet at home,” said Rodrigo Reyes, 18, one of the nearly 250,000 children who dropped out of school in 2020.
This figure includes primary and secondary school students who had enrolled for the school year but did not complete it.
In March 2020, as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19, distance learning was adopted in the country, which made access to the Internet and electronic devices essential. Online classes continued until 2022, when the students returned to class.
But during this period, inequalities in access and quality of education have worsened, affecting students living in poverty or who are part of rural and indigenous populations.
Peru is a multicultural and multi-ethnic country with just over 33 million inhabitants, where in 2021 poverty affected 25.9 percent of the population, 4.2 percentage points less than in 2020, but still 5.7 points more than in 2019, the year before the outbreak of the pandemic. Monetary poverty officially hit 39.7% of the rural population and 22% of the urban population, reflecting a huge social divide.
“These are primary and secondary students who are always those who fail to thrive in their learning, those who, in quotes, do not pass the assessment tests of the student census, who reside in provinces that occupy the last places in the rankings in national level “, said Rossana Mendoza, university professor of intercultural bilingual education.
“They are the same young people who face a range of shortcomings and services, they are indigenous who speak a language other than Spanish for which the Aprendo en Casa (learning at home) program launched by the government was not an adequate response,” he added. in an interview with IPS at his home in the Lima district of Jesús María.
But students from poor suburbs were also affected. Mendoza said they had to alternate school work with helping parents by working to support the family, thus spending little time on studies.
This was the case with Reyes, who had no choice but to drop out of school and put aside her dream of becoming a heavy machinery technician.
“I was planning to finish school at 16, I was going to graduate with my friends and then I planned to get ready to enroll in the institute and become a mechanic … but it didn’t happen,” he told IPS at his booth. della mamma where they sell food and other products at the Santa Marta market in her neighborhood, where she has worked full time since the beginning of the pandemic.
Reyes lives on the outskirts of the Ate district, one of the 43 that make up Lima, located on the east side of the capital. Like much of the district’s population of nearly 600,000, his family came from within the country in search of better opportunities.
“I have always believed that study is what draws people out of ignorance, what sets us free, and it is what we wanted for our children when we came to Lima with my husband. That’s why it hurts me so much not to have it. fact was able to afford to support Rodrigo’s plans, “the young man’s mother, Elsa García, sadly told IPS.
The pandemic dealt a severe blow to the family’s precarious budget and Rodrigo and his two younger siblings dropped out of school in 2020. The following year, only the younger siblings were able to return to school.
“With my help in the shop we were able to save some money and my dad was able to buy a cellphone for my brothers and now they share the internet. I have to keep supporting them so they can finish school and become professionals, maybe later. I can do it too, “Rodrigo said.
Barriers to education existed before the pandemic in this South American country. This is well known to Delia Paredes, who dropped out of school before completing primary education because she became pregnant with her. She is now 17 years old and she has not been able to resume her studies.
He lives with his parents and younger sisters in the rural area outside the town of Neshulla, which has a population of 7,500 and is located in the central eastern part of Ucayali, a department in the Amazon jungle region of Peru. Her father, Uber Paredes, is a farmer with no land of his own and works as a farmhand on nearby farms, earning a monthly income of less than $ 100.
“I couldn’t afford to buy my daughter the shoes, clothes and school supplies she needed to continue studying, and after having her baby she became a housewife helping my wife … I have no money, there there are so many of the poverty around here, ”he told IPS over the phone from Neshulla.
Her younger daughters Alexandra and Deliz are in school and are back in class this year. Alexandra feels sorry for her older sister. “She always repeats that she wanted to be a nurse. I told her that when she becomes a teacher and I work, I will help her,” she said.
Early pregnancy, such as Delia’s, considered forced by rights organizations because it is usually the result of rape, reached 2.9 per cent among girls and adolescents aged 12 to 17 in 2021. Like poverty, it is concentrated in rural areas, where it stood at 4.8 percent, compared to 2.3 percent in urban areas.
The widening of the gaps
In 2020, 8.2 million children and adolescents were enrolled in schools nationwide, prior to the declaration of the pandemic. The total number of children and adolescents enrolled in May 2022 was close to 6.8 million. Education authorities expected the gap to narrow in the coming months, but did not report any information on this.
In 2020, nearly a quarter of a million schoolchildren were forced out of school nationwide, and by 2021 the number was nearly 125,000. However, by 2022, the gap has widened, with nearly 670,000 unenrolled in the current school year, which began in March.
This gap has emerged despite the fact that the Ministry of Education has launched a National Emergency Plan for the Peruvian Education System from the second half of 2021 to the first half of 2022, aimed at creating the conditions necessary to bring back children who have dropped out of school.
Professor Mendoza said the priority is to bring back to school the segment of the population excluded from the right to education. “We need a strategy that provides support not only in terms of study, but in terms of the difficulties abandoned students face in surviving with their families who have lost their mother, father or grandparents due to the pandemic,” he said.
“You have to see them in that context and not just because they have poor learning outcomes. To see that they have a terrible disadvantaged life to keep going and that they are excluded from the education system,” he said.
He added that it is necessary to clearly identify the target population. “The Peruvian school management system, which is quite developed, should allow us to know who these children and adolescents are, what they are called, where they live, what happened to their families and how the school system can offer them opportunities within. their current living conditions “.
Mendoza explained that not only are they out of the system, but their living conditions have changed and they cannot be expected to return to the school system as if nothing had happened after falling into even deeper poverty or being orphaned.
© Inter Press Service (2022) – All rights reservedOriginal source: InterPress Service